The smell of burning rubber, water sprayed in your face, a moving seat and surround video are among the measures cinemas hope will get you through their doors.
The UK’s largest cinema chain, Cineworld, is among theatres pinning their hopes on more immersive experiences as part of its Covid lockdown recovery efforts.
Cineworld plans to roll out its 4DX immersive auditoriums and Screen X 270-degree ‘surround video’ screens to about 30 per cent of its 99 UK cinemas.
The move comes as cinemas begin to show delayed blockbuster films for the first time in months after coronavirus lockdown measures forced them to shut.
During lockdown a number of production and distribution companies began offering their new films for a fee over streaming platforms like iTunes, Sky Store and Amazon.
The new Christopher Nolan spy movie Tenet, starring John David Washington, Michael Cain and Robert Pattinson will be a cinema exclusive release on August 26.
The latest digital first release is the live-action remake of Mulan, which will be available to stream on Disney+ for $29.99 – a UK release hasn’t been confirmed.
Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld said the immersive move would bring ‘added value and additional excitement’ to the big screen that can’t be replicated at home.
4DX technology, already in place at a number of Cineworld locations – including London’s Leicester Square – includes moving seats, smoke machines and water.
According to a Cineworld 4DX is available in 31 4DX auditoriums, including their flagship site at Cineworld Leicester Square.
The auditoriums are designed to make viewers feel like they are part of the experience happening on screen and also include scents from the film.
‘I think there are many items that are going to bring people back to the big screen from the small screen but one of them for sure is 4DX,’ Greidinger told The Times.
One of the first big budget movies to come back to cinemas will be spy film Tenet that was written, directed and produced by Christopher Nolan.
It stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Michael Cain and Kenneth Branagh and will not be available digitally at the same time as the cinema release.
Greidinger says the movie will be a ‘turning point’ for people returning back to the big screen and demonstrate the value of the exclusive cinema release window.
‘Once the results of Tenet start coming out it will be an added incentive to others to release their movies,’ he told The Times.
‘It is a little like the chicken and egg. Every big movie now costs anywhere between $150 million and $200 million. It is a very big risk for the studios.’
‘Somebody once described the release in the cinemas as the locomotive which is taking the whole train behind it,’ he said.
Greidinger told The Times that with 4DX you can feel the train actually moving.
He said he planned to continue blacklisting – banning from his screens – any movie that isn’t given an exclusive cinema release window before appearing online.
‘Cineworld has an extensive expansion and refurbishment program underway, involving the additional roll out of 4DX and ScreenX across the UK,’ a spokesperson for the firm said.
During the coronavirus lockdown, Cineworld continued to upgrade their estate with full scale refurbishments and special format installations in Wolverhampton, Swindon, Boldon and Brighton to provide an enhanced experience for guests when they return.
‘Cineworld Wolverhampton and Swindon Shaw Ridge both now have brand new 4DX screens and will be screening all of the latest blockbusters in this special immersive format,’ the spokesperson said.
It isn’t just the latest blockbusters that will be shown on the ‘immersive screens’, according to the cinema chain, adding older movies will get a first 4DX release.
The firm re-opened across the country after lockdown with the first-ever 4DX screenings of Harry Potter films and Jurassic Park.
The 4DX film experience combines multi-sensory effects including faint water and wind jets, scents and lighting, as well as motion effects, including seat movements.
These immersive techniques are all ‘timed to precision’ to enhance what’s on screen and ‘put audiences inside the movie’.
First adopted in South Korea in 2012, 4DX is the latest attempt by cinema operators to attract film viewers amid the growing popularity of online subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The standard is designed to give paying audiences an experience they would never get sitting in front of their TVs at home.
Rather like the immersive 3D ‘rollercoaster’ rides at theme parks and museums, 4DX moves viewers around in their seats in time with the action on the screen.
The coronavirus pandemic and measures to slow it all but paralysed cinema chains which were already struggling thanks to competition from streaming services.
Universal pictures has already confirmed it had enough success with digital first releases during lockdown that it plans to continue to offer blockbusters online at the same time as they are in the cinema even after Covid-19.